This week on Rag Radio we feature Shiva's Headband as the pioneering Austin psychedelic blues-rock group celebrates its 50th anniversary. Founder Spencer Perskin and original pianist and vocalist Shawn Siegel join Thorne Dreyer on a show with live performanceand lots of rich history.
Founded in 1967, Shiva's Headband served as house band at Austin's original Sixties music hall, the Vulcan Gas Co., and was the first group to perform at the historic Armadillo World Headquarters, which was founded and funded by Spencer Perskin. Shiva's played with such luminaries as Spirit, Steppenwolf, ZZ Top, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, and Steve Miller. "Take Me to the Mountains," produced by Perskin for Capitol Records, was the first record released nationally by an Austin band -- and the band's first royalty check provided the seed money for Spencer to open the Armadillo. Trained as a classical violinist, virtuoso musician Perskin performed on a number of instruments, including the violin, guitar, and saxophone. His career began at age eight, and at nine he was accepted as a special music student at SMU, and he later studied in the renowned North Texas State music program.
As Bill Bentley wrote in the Austin Chronicle:
[Austin psychedelic band] Conqueroo had left town for San Francisco and the 13th Floor Elevators left their minds anywhere but the bandstand, so Shiva's became the house band for hippies in Austin... Spencer Perskin's electric violin painted the walls of the Vulcan in a variety of spine-tingling colors, while his vocals were a call to eternal bliss. Pianist and vocalist Shawn Siegel mixed Thelonious Monk with Jelly Roll Morton on his keyboard, and also sang with a sense of counterculture devotion.
The band had deep roots in the community and played benefits for anti-war groups and other social causes and did many a benefit for Austin's underground newspaper, The Rag. Spencer and Shawn were previously Rag Radio guests on May 25, 2012, and Spencer was also part of a a December 26, 2014 all-star musical jam that also featured Powell St. John and Maryann Price. Rag Radio is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, an all-volunteer, cooperatively-run, solar powered community radio station in Austin, Texas, in association with The Rag Blog and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is streamed live on the Internet at KOOP.org and Radio Free America. The host and producer of Rag Radio, Thorne Dreyer, is a prominent Austin-based activist and writer who was a pioneer of the ’60s underground press movement. The show’s engineer and co-producer is Tracey Schulz and the staff photographer is Roger Baker. The syndicated show is broadcast (and streamed) live Fridays, 2-3 p.m. (Central) on KOOP, and is later rebroadcast and streamed on WFTE-FM in Mt. Cobb and Scranton, PA., on Houston Pacifica's KPFT HD-3 90.1, and by KKRN, 88.5-FM in Round Mountain, CA -- and as a featured podcast at Veterans Today. Learn more about Rag Radio here.